Jury to put one-mill tax on Dec. ballot

Published 12:04 am Tuesday, August 21, 2012

EDITOR’S NOTE: The original version of this article included inaccurate numbers for the additional costs to agricultural and timber land owners if the one-mill tax passes. Concordia Parish Drainage Committee member Bill Beasley said the figures were miscalculated. The current version of the story includes the correct numbers.

VIDALIA — A two-hour drainage discussion among Concordia Parish residents and state and local officials culminated in a unanimous vote by the police jury Monday night to put a one-mill tax increase on the ballot for December.

The millage, if passed, will fund the operation and maintenance of levee drainage structures for the parish’s Black River Lake and Brushy Bayou drainage projects.

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Millage will not be collected until all permits, approvals and authorization have been received for construction. A half mill will be collected after each structure is approved.

The police jury originally proposed a two-mill tax increase at a July 30 meeting, but the millage has been reduced to one mill.

A one-mill increase equals $133,700 per year.

The cost to property owners is as follows:

• $75,000 home: no cost

• $100,000 home: $2.50

• $200,000 home: $12.50

• 100 acres of agriculture land: approximately $1.83-$3.47

• 100 acres of timber land: approximately $.75-$3.87

The tax increase is the police jury’s solution to getting the $3.5 million in funding for the Black River Lake drainage project released. The funding will not be released until an organization agrees to provide upkeep and maintenance after construction.

The Black River Lake Commission, set up several years ago to help manage the Black River drainage area, also known as the Horseshoe Complex, was allocated $1 million in priority 1 funding and $2.5 million in priority 5 funding for drainage structure installation, studies, permits and construction.

The structure would be two 10-foot box drainage tanks, with cutoff gates that would be installed with 3-foot intervals to control water levels in the Black River Lake area.

Concordia Parish Drainage Committee member Bill Beasley announced at Monday’s meeting that the proposed design for the structure had been changed to only to remove high water from Black River Lake to Black River after heavy rain events.

After questions from residents about why the design has been changed to only remove water and not let water into Black River Lake, Beasley and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials explained that letting water into Black River Lake would require a completely separate study that would be time-consuming and costly.

It was the opinion of most of the residents who voiced concerns at the meeting that the structure should be designed to do both. Beasley suggested and the jury voted that the structure be designed to let water in and out but only permitted to remove water from Black River Lake until the other study could be done.

Recent concerns of fishermen that trash fish like silver carp would enter Black River Lake were put to rest when several audience members pointed out that silver carp were already in the system.

Police Jury President Melvin Ferrington and other officials at the meeting stressed the importance of getting the project to the next level quickly. If the parish does not use the funding within the next year, it will lose the money.

“If we miss this opportunity, drainage is only going to get worse,” Ferrington said.